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Mnuser
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Topsoil qestion - new to the whole garden scene

I just built a raised garden. It is 12 x 20 and it is raised. Wemade it 8" deep. I think we may have messed up by filling it with top soil. The area we live in is solid sand. Beach sand. We did plant some started plants we found at garden stores. Not much left to pick from. We will see how it goes this year with the top soil. What can we do this fall or next spring to help loosen up the soil? I think in the long run we will be ok but we will some more work ahead of us to fix our soil issue. I look forward to reading what the experts have to say.

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Mnuser
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Been Reading a Ton

I have MANY mature oak trees in my yard. Is it ok to pile some on the new garden this fall and let them sit over the winter months then till them in in the spring? Some have said to do this to help loosen the soil. I would also think this could make the garden pretty acidic.

Spending too much time on the internet can become really confusing.

Binkalette
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Yes, mulching with leaves will certainly improve the quality of the soil. You can also do grass clippings, or start a compost pile and have some nice compost to add to it next spring.

I too made the mistake of filling my raised bed with top soil, everything came out fairly well last year, but this year I have been adding things to the soil and my plants are flourishing!! I added bone meal and blood meal at the time of planting, and water with fish fertilizer every week or two. I also covered the soil with a grass clipping and leaf mixture. I started my first compost bin a few months ago and have been adding to it steadily. It's almost full now and when I had my husband turn it last weekend, the contents of the bin at the bottom were DIRT and they were very warm. I am very excited for next year. :)

ETA I don't know about leaves acidifying, but I do know my wal-mart top soil was very basic last year. I added some coffee grounds and sawdust last fall and it turned more neutral this year. I don't know what the best PH is to have though... I just figured neither extreme would be good.

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rainbowgardener
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Sounds like you are off too a good start. My only question about a 12x20 raised bed is how do you get to everything to weed, harvest, etc? Most often we make beds (or raised rows) that are no more than 4' wide so that you can reach everything from the outside. Part of the point of a raised bed is that you never walk on the soil you grow in, so that the soil doesn't get compacted. Did you put paths through yours?

Good advice from Bink: start a compost pile now! Then in fall and spring you will have good homemade compost to add to your bed; absolutely the best soil amendment. When the oak leaves start coming down, use some of them as your brown in the compost pile (browse in the compost forum if you aren't familiar with composting and read the greens/ browns sticky). Bag/pile some of the leaves up separately to keep adding to your pile through the winter. Being added to the pile with other stuff balances out the pH.

Yes, you can mulch with leaves and turn them under in the spring. They are a bit acidifying, but this is only a problem if your soil is already acid. Sandy soil usually is alkaline. Most garden veggies like the soil a little bit on the acid side of neutral, so the acidifying property of the oak leaves may be just what you need.
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garden5
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Even better than mulching with just leaves is mulching with both leaves and grass clippings. This will help the leaves to break down faster and keep them form pulling nitrogen from your soil.

As the posters before me have said: start your compost pile. We have an excellent forum here for learning about and discussing making compost. This is going to be one of the most important factor in improving the quality of your soil.

Also, you can try planting a cover-crop. This involves planting a certain crop in the fall, then tilling it in come spring. Crops that are good fro this include rye, alfalfa, soybeans, hairy vetch, crimson clover, and more. Some you till in the spring, others can be tilled before winter.

Good luck with your new garden :D.
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Mnuser
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Thanks for the replies.

As for access, we just walk down the rows. In hindsight, we should have made them 4' wide but we did not so know we will just have to deal with what we made. Not a huge problem but I can see where reaching across would have been nice.

I will try the cover crop this fall. Would this really help loosen the soil if I till it in in the spring before planting? The top soil is really loose now until you step into it then it compacts down. I did notice that the water likes to pool and with our wet weather as of late, I'm not sure how fast the soil will start to dry out. I will have to watch that and learn it's patterns.

I would love to start the composting. I have read but I'm still confused a bit. Would wire with 4" holes work for a frame? I have a bunch left over since I had to build a 5' fence around the garden since the deer like to make the rounds at night to see what they can feed on. The will eat most of the yard already....

In my very limited mind, I pictured taking the wire and standing it up in a 4' circle. Then fill it with scraps and other things from the yard. The wire would really let in the oxygen which seems to be the biggest questions asked.

cynthia_h
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Mnuser wrote:I would love to start the composting. I have read but I'm still confused a bit. Would wire with 4" holes work for a frame? I have a bunch left over since I had to build a 5' fence around the garden since the deer like to make the rounds at night to see what they can feed on. The will eat most of the yard already....

In my very limited mind, I pictured taking the wire and standing it up in a 4' circle. Then fill it with scraps and other things from the yard. The wire would really let in the oxygen which seems to be the biggest questions asked.
Sounds good!

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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applestar
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The wire fence circle is an easy way to make a leaf-based pile because it prevents the leaves from blowing away, though I do prefer a "3-sided with open front" design better for active pile that gets turned every week or so.

I believe the way wire fence circle bin is turned is to open the circle, position and re-hook into a circle next to the pile, then turn/fill the pile into the circle in the new position. I would have trouble lifting well moistened compost ingredients over the fencing.

With my open front bays, I just use temporary short front walls to keep the pile from sliding down the front. But I do make a wire fence circle to keep extra, unbagged leaves.

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